With the Christmas break coming to an end for the NHL, it is time to talk about who really stood out in the first half of the season. While Connor McDavid has yet again taken the league by storm, it is his teammate, Leon Draisaitl, that should be getting more attention. Draisaitl’s performance is worthy of being in the Hart Trophy talk.
Being cast by McDavids shadow, Draisaitl finished last season with a quiet 50 goals. However, this season he took his game to yet another level. As of right now, Draisaitl is second in points (61) only to McDavid and is six points clear of third place to Nathan MacKinnon. Also Draisaitl’s point totals are not a product of playing with McDavid, the German forward has really come into his own this season. He has been a presence all over the ice and has performed better than McDavid on multiple occasions.
When talking about the top players today many experts will mention McDavid, MacKinnon and David Pastrnak, as of recently, but Draisaitl doesn’t receive the love he deserves. Despite his own performances as of late, he is still in McDavid’s shadow. He has put up a lot of these numbers from his own play. For one, he has scored six more goals than anybody else throughout the calendar year of 2019. Second place is Alexander Ovechkin. This season, Draisaitl as a whole is playing a more complete offensive game, feeding his line mates more. Nonetheless, his credit is often is still hidden behind McDavid.
This is very similar to Evgeni Malkin, who just over 10 years ago, was constantly in Sidney Crosby’s shadow. What really put Malkin on the map among the league’s best was Crosby’s injuries. That’s not to say McDavid needs to get injured, but Draisaitl needs to get more attention for his play. After this season, Draisaitl should be taken seriously as one of the top 10 player in the league.
Draisaitl is also a great example of a player that took longer than expected to hit their potential. In his first season, the German forward only got five points in 40 games. He left many thinking that he wouldn’t work out for the NHL at first. But, Draisaitl is a lesson to many general managers, showing that it is important to hang onto your developing talent, even if they are struggling. When Peter Charelli was the Oilers GM, he may have made many mistakes but he did stick to his guns with keeping Draisaitl, and it certainly paid off.
Draisaitl is not only a great example for GMs to not give up on a top prospect during struggles, but he is a great role model too. Germany doesn’t have much elite talent, making it difficult to find a role model for young German players. That is of course, before Draisaitl became a star in the NHL. In 2014, he became the highest German player ever drafted when the Oilers selected him 3rd overall. With the upcoming draft having Tim Stutzle and John-Jason Peterka, who both should be going in the first round of the NHL draft, a wave seems to be starting for German hockey. Even over the last two years the NHL saw Germans, Dominik Bokk and Moritz Seider, selected in the first round as well. Draisaitl has essentially been the pathway to putting German hockey on the map, and it will only get better over time. Draisaitl winning the Hart Trophy would not only be great for him as a player, but it would be great for his country too.
Draisaitl has come a long way and should be talked about with the likes of the Nathan MacKinnon’s of the league. Expect him to make some serious damage in the league going forward.
The fact that Draisaitl and McDavid play together and are entering their prime soon, is something Oiler fans can get excited about for the 2020s. This duo could take over the league, much like the Crosby-Malkin duo has done over the past decade. With the other two, entering their 30s, they will be slowing down soon. NHL fans have a duo to be excited about for many years. However, the Edmonton Oilers need to organize their defensive play, so that the team can team can do some serious damage with both McDavid and Draisaitl at the helm. With that being said, this team still has powerhouse potential.